Recently (around the time Prometheus hit theaters), MTV GEEK did a list of their favorite Alien crossover comics, and Superman/Aliens came in at #8. For those who may not have been collecting at the time, for a period, Dark Horse took the opportunity of having the Aliens and Predator (and, for a while, Robocop and Terminator) franchises to have many different crossover books, including Batman vs. Predator and Batman vs. Aliens (which are amongst my favorites, the latter being by Ron Marz and Bernie Wrightson), Green Lantern vs. Aliens, The Darkness and Witchblade vs. Aliens and Predator, and Superman/Batman vs. Predators/Aliens. Despite the silly-sounding concepts, most of these books had dynamite creative teams (Batman vs. Predator featured art by Andy Kubert, for example) and were prestige format, so you got some gorgeous, well written books that surprisingly took their franchises seriously.
I recently got my hands on a used copy of Superman/Aliens by Dan Jurgens and Kevin Nowlan, and dug into it excitedly. This is around the time of long-haired Superman (1995), and features Superman assisting Lexcorp scientists who come across a probe that may have ties to a lost Kryptonian city, and has Superman investigating what could, potentially, be some living Kryptonians. Unfortunately, the probe leads them to a city that’s far from the sun, depleting Superman of his powers as he has to take on an army of aliens with the last survivor of the dying city. Meanwhile, back on the space station waiting for Superman, Lois Lane deals with an alien infestation while Lexcorp scientists (of course) want to keep them alive for study.
Dan Jurgens is not only one of my favorite Superman artists, he’s one of my favorite Superman writers, and this story shows why. Despite some references to events that happened at the time, the book is pretty self-contained, and can be enjoyed by anyone with a passing knowledge of pre-New52 Superman continuity. Surprisingly faithful to both franchises, the book feels both like a Superman story, while also keeping the horror of Aliens. The two different stories help that, with the claustrophobic space station (where Lois battles aliens) leaning more towards the horror.
Superman being depowered far from the sun is something that always bugged me a bit, but was done well in this book. It’s not instant and, even away from the sun, he has some of his powers, but limiting his powers, as well as Superman’s insistence not to kill, lead to him having a hard time figuring out how to handle the aliens, especially while a chestburster grows inside of him. I wonder, if Superman had seen Prometheus, which essentially said the Aliens were a bio-weapon and not a race of living beings, if he’d have the same issues taking their lives.
I enjoyed the hell out of this book, and highly recommend checking it out for any Superman fan. There’s a ton to enjoy, and it’s nice seeing a Superman who is, quite clearly, Superman, and has a higher moral sensibility, no matter the situation. The writing is, of course, a little dated (read a 90’s comic compared to one written today), but it’s not too bad. And the art by Kevin Nowlan is well done (those damn aliens are hard to draw!), balancing the horror and the superhero elements extremely well.
Out of print now, you can probably still get a used copy for a reasonable price. I’d love to see this story converted to digital at some point so fans can get their hands on it easier. A sequel, God War, brought the battle to Apokolips and though I haven’t read it, I’m dying to!